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The 9 Best Reasons to Celebrate the Importance of Grandparents in Your Child’s Life
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Grandparents are so significant in the lives of their grandchildren. I think it’s safe to say we all know that. But why? Why are grandparents essential if a child already has a couple of good parents, teachers, and even a great youth leader? In this article, we will go through some reasons not to underestimate the importance of grandparents in a child’s life.
But First, Some Hip Grandma History
As a child, I was blessed with many grandparents. I had both my mother’s and my father’s parents. In addition, I had a couple of great-grandmothers on my mom’s side and a Great Aunt, who was like a bonus grandparent. All of those grandparents played an important role in my life and were uniquely involved, and I have specific memories with each of them.
Sadly, most of my grandparents passed while I was still young, and the few that remained were not overly interested in my day-to-day life. I watched friends my age have profound and close relationships with their grandparents and missed that in my life as I went through high school and early adulthood.
I always dreamed of the day I would have kids so they could enjoy warm and loving relationships with their grandparents. And they had that when they were very young. As they grew, their relationships with their grandparents stretched, and they don’t see or spend much time with them these days, and that makes me sad for them, kids and grandparents alike.
But now those kids are grown and have started gifting me with grandkids. And what a pleasure those kids are! I can’t love being a grandma enough! My first little grandson is already four years old, and my first granddaughter is toddling around, getting ready for a second birthday.
Being their grandma is very special to me, and I love being active in my grandchildren’s lives. My kids offered me the opportunity to choose my grandma-name, and I went for the old classic, Grandma. It just made sense to me. After all, I am a grandma. And I wear the title with pride! Nothing is more delightful than hearing that cherished word “grandma” come from them.
As important as those little peanuts are to me, and as much as it warms my heart to hear my name from their little mouths, I also know without a doubt that I am every bit as important to them as they are to me! The fact is, their lives would not look the same without me in them. So let’s talk about what makes grandparents so important to children.
Grandparents Have Life Experiences to Share
Upon meeting, your first impression of me may not lead you to the conclusion that I have a ton of hard-core life experience, but guess what!? I do, and so does every single person that makes it to the age of grandparent. We have lived through all of the stages of life that our kids are just beginning to experience. We have seen the world change, and there are many valuable lessons from that life experience.
As grandparents, we’ve seen so many changes. Think about new technology (which barely existed when I was a kid), new diet fads, education, schools, and even neighborhood dynamics that have changed. We have watched our parents go before us, and may even be a link between those generations.
And all of these life experiences bring with them stories. Stories that are sad, joyful, funny, and poignant memories are a part of our everyday lives. Children unknowingly crave information, and grandparents have a lot of information to give! One of my grandson’s favorite activities these days is to sit on the floor and listen to stories of places I’ve been and things I’ve seen.
Nuggets of information about those kids’ origin stories slip out when we tell stories. Cultural and family traditions have a way of making their way known through grandparent involvement. Kids can learn about family members and their culture and understand their family history much more clearly when they spend time with their grandparents.
Grandparents Provide a Sense of Security
Children need security. And let’s face it, life can be challenging growing up. Grandparents readily available for their grandchildren offer a sense of security even parents can’t always provide.
When I divorced, my children were two, four, and six. My divorce turned their lives upside down in a minute. I was so busy keeping my head above water that it didn’t dawn on me how much they were treading to keep their heads above water, too. Don’t get me wrong. I love those kids fiercely, and I am a great mom. They were always well-loved and provided for by both dad and me. But a new home, new friends, school, and routine are unsettling for anyone. Thank goodness my kids had one evening a month with my parents when that house looked and functioned the same as before the divorce.
I’m sure there was great comfort in that routine for them. Several years later, I re-married and turned their lives around again. These were ultimately good changes, but change is still hard. A steady set of grandparents can help level out all of that change and keep some stability where it’s desperately needed.
And this stability isn’t just for divorce. Change happens in every child’s life. Consider a new sibling entering the picture, a move to a different neighborhood, or the death of a family pet. All of these changes are tough and stressful for parents. Having that rock-solid relationship with grandparents can anchor a child through all sorts of changes.
Finally, studies have shown that kids with solid relationships with grandparents have fewer emotional problems or behavioral difficulties with their peers through their teenage years. And really, what teenager loves to talk to her parents!? Some, yes, but many find conversations easier with grandparents than with parents. Every parent needs a backup for their teen in a rough or challenging situation. The emotional support that a grandparent can offer is priceless
Grandparents are a Source of Unconditional Love
Grandparents don’t have the job of forming these tiny people into whom they should become. That’s a job better left to parents. It is a grandparent’s job to love. Of course, we must keep them safe, and we can help coach them to wise decisions, but we have the unique gift of loving them exactly as they are and not for whom we hope they grow to be. This unconditional love is magical to children, who naturally wish to please their parents. Quality time with grandma and grandpa is a gift and allows kids to suck up the unconditional love that only grandparents can give.
I remember the scene in the movie, “Wonder,” where Olivia, the teenage sister of the main character Auggie, sits at the beach with her Gran. Gran lovingly offers stability and deep, unconditional love to Olivia with just a few words. If you haven’t seen this movie, you must. The film has lovely messages for children and adults alike and is just darned fun to watch. If you are not into movies, check out the book! This one has a permanent place on my bookshelf!
Grandparent Relationships Can Positively Impact a Child’s Mental Health
Today’s generation of parents is more aware than ever of their children’s mental health. In March 2022, JAMA Pediatrics released a study showing that American children ages 3-17 have experienced increased anxiety and depression over the past five years. I’m sure Covid hasn’t helped any of that. It is wonderful that parents today are working hard to help their children navigate mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
It should be no surprise that another earlier study, released in 2014 by a team at Boston College, stated, “We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations,” said Moorman, who is also affiliated with the University’s Institute on Aging. “Grandparents and adult grandchildren can be real resources to each other.”
Grandparents aren’t the end-all solution to overwhelming mental health problems, but they can certainly be a step in the right direction for dealing with some of these issues. Children with close relationships with their grandparents have a built-in therapist, cheerleader, coach, and friend. It makes sense that this relationship can help lower levels of depression and anxiety and can build confidence.
This kind of boost in mental health has the power to last, too. Adult children whose grandparents played a vital role in their lives report that this stabilizing force was a great way to work through tough times.
Grandparents Have Time
Today’s parents are busy! Many families have two parents who work outside the home or are functioning as two separate households and co-parenting. Grandparents are more critical than ever when assisting parents as fill-ins for sporting and school events, transportation, and even after-school child care. And why not!? Grandparents who have reached retirement age tend to have more time to be present for their grandkids.
I have one 14-year-old son left at home who is involved with many school-related activities. I have gotten to know many of his friends’ grandparents at school events because these grandparents act as stand-ins for the parents juggling multiple kids, jobs, and commitments. And what kid isn’t excited to show off grandparents to their friends? When Tucker was in elementary school, I became very friendly with a classmate’s grandma, who attended every field trip over the years. Mom was working and unable to get time off, so grandma came along to share in the fun of the field trip. What a lovely relationship that was to watch over the years.
And not only do grandparents have time for these organized events, but in our household, when grandkids are over, I have all the time to craft, bake, tell stories, read books, and have impromptu dance parties. When I was busy raising my children, there was laundry to be done, meals to cook, places to go, and no break from parenting. Now I have the remarkable ability to pause all that and simply focus on spending time with those precious little people. I know they will return home after a few hours, and I can resume the household chores. When they are here, they have all my attention.
Grandparents Can Uniquely Encourage Adventures
As a child, I was a dreamer. I loved to think about where life would take me. Of course, as a little girl, I had an affinity for the romantic, and I loved to think about traveling worldwide. I also liked the idea of having a farm with all the pigs I could ever want rolling around in the muck. My dreams were sometimes nonsensical, and that was okay. I hope my grandchildren have nonsensical dreams, too. And when they do, I hope they tell me all about them. As a grandparent, it will be my job to listen, encourage, and share stories about those dreams.
Suppose my grandson wants to dance in the ballet, drive a tractor, or set a world record for eating the most hot dogs. In that case, I can share my stories of the beautiful ballet I once attended, drive him to the local John Deere sales lot where he can look at all of the giant green tractors, or get him started on that hot dog record by letting him have seconds (or even thirds – shhhh… don’t tell mom) for lunch.
As grandparents, we understand the joy of dreaming and exploring. And we are in a unique position to listen and encourage. We can even take those dreams a step further by exploring a museum or nearby town or vacationing with them. I recently took a trip on the SS Badger across Lake Michigan. When my grandson looks at the Badger keychain, he always says, “I’m gonna go on that boat with you sometime, Grandma.” And I can say yes and genuinely mean that.
I look forward to the day I can take him aboard and show him all the sites. Maybe we can even explore the other side of the lake for a bit before heading back across the lake to head for home!
Grandparents Have Different Perspectives
Grandparents have lived through some things. Because we’ve walked the path our grandkids are walking but have done so in a different era, we have a different view of how the world can look, and that’s the gift of age.
Even at four years old, my grandson thinks it’s funny how some of my kitchen tools are different from what he has in his kitchen. I can show him how the tool differs, but the result is the same. He loves to look in the kitchen drawer and see what odd gadgets I have on hand. Though this looks like simple play and exploration, it allows him to see that life is full of variety and there is more than one way to accomplish a task.
Last summer, I grew my first strawberries in a raised garden bed. I was so excited to have him come and help me pick some and eat them. We had such fun digging into the greenery and finding the good, red, ripe berries. We ate them as fast as we found them and ended up with a whole bowl of nothing to bring in for our strawberry shortcake. He was pretty worried about that until we talked it over, and he realized that we weren’t hungry for that shortcake after all since we had filled up with fresh berries.
I like to think that he gained a fresh perspective after that experience. It’s sometimes okay to change plans mid-course, especially if it’s hurting no one and you’re taking good care of yourself in the process.
Beliefs and Values
Finally, let’s consider how much a grandparent relationship can be a positive influence on a child’s faith. In Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations, author Vern L. Bengtson and his colleagues share the results of a study including over 350 families and 3,500 individuals of all generations, both older generations, and younger generations. Among the many conclusions of this study, one of the most important is that Grandparents significantly influence a child’s faith formation.
As a grandparent, you model your faith beliefs to your grandchild through daily practices such as prayer, church, and even tidbits of wisdom from your faith. Those from a traditional Christian background probably remember grandpa’s prayer before dinner or the Sunday afternoon naptime to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
Grandparents pass down the importance of their values to their grandchildren by modeling what’s important to them. Volunteering? Bring the grandkids! Heading for Sunday church? Bring the grandkids! Reading your bible? Read aloud to the grandkids! There are many small ways that a grandparent passes on family traditions and deep values over the years.
Bonus for the Modern Family – Childcare Assistance
In today’s world, more and more families need two parents working outside of the home to make ends meet. For many families, this changes the role of a grandparent from part-time entertainment to a full-time caregiver. Grandparents can step in and offer assistance with childcare and, in some cases, become the primary caregiver. Even if it’s only for a day or two per week, this can make a substantial financial difference to a family trying to balance the financial responsibilities of supporting a family.
As a mom, I have had the opportunity to parent from multiple perspectives. I’ve been an at-home mom, a full-time working mom of 3, an at-home mom with a part-time job in the evenings, a mom with a job during my kids’ school hours, a single mom working full-time in an executive role with long hours, and a full-time work from home mom. I’ve indeed done it all. I have much perspective on the joys and challenges of navigating childcare for work.
Busy parents who have parents willing to take care of their grandchildren can have a positive impact on everyone. For those of you who have grandparents ready to step into the lives of your young children, don’t underestimate this valuable resource. Not everyone has that kind of unwavering support from their family.
Wrapping it All Up
Mature and wise parents work hard at keeping strong relationships alive and active between their parents and their children, and not just because they offer free babysitting! It takes a lot of self-confidence and trust to hand your kids over to grandparents and let them have a ball. I remember how easy it was to feel possessive of my kids and worry that my parents weren’t doing things the right way. The fact is, they probably did do many things differently than I did. But that didn’t make it wrong. It gave my kids a richer, more holistic experience in life, seeing how different people handle situations differently.
As a grandparent, use whatever means you must to stay close to your grandchildren. Be involved grandparents, even if physical distance separates you. Make frequent contact, write letters, make phone calls, send videos, show interest in schoolwork, and find ways to make personal contact that will foster a closer relationship. That closeness is a gift no one can give them, and their lives are richer with your presence.
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